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Judge ends suit over old abortion law

BOISE – A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that Planned Parenthood brought against the state of Idaho over a 2005 abortion law that has since been replaced by a new law.

But U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill preserved in case law his finding that Planned Parenthood was likely to win if the case had been completed because the state’s law appeared to be unconstitutional.

The case arose after the Idaho Legislature approved a law requiring that minors seeking abortions – short of a medical emergency – either first obtain parental consent or prove to a judge that they are mature enough to make the decision without their parents’ knowledge. The law included two provisions that Winmill later said were likely to be found unconstitutional.

The first provision required that the court appoint a guardian ad litem to investigate the minor’s situation. The guardian was then required to report to law enforcement any suspicion of criminal activity, and under Idaho law, sex outside of marriage is a criminal act, though rarely prosecuted.

The second provision required that physicians notify a parent after a minor has an abortion in a medical emergency.

Planned Parenthood sued, claiming the law violated a minor’s right to privacy and that it was unconstitutional on several fronts. While that battle was continuing in the federal courts, the 2007 Legislature repealed the law and enacted a new parental consent rule in its place – this one without the two conditions.

Both Planned Parenthood and the state agreed that the Legislature’s move rendered the lawsuit moot, and both sides asked Winmill to dismiss the case. But Planned Parenthood officials also asked Winmill not to vacate his finding on the Constitutionality of the two provisions, because they believed the finding would help fight off any future attempts to enact similar laws.


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Then and Now: Comstock Park

James M. Comstock, born in 1838 in Wisconsin, arrived in Spokane in time to witness the great fire of 1889 and start Spokane Dry Goods with Robert Paterson. It became the Crescent, Spokane’s premier department store for a century. He also worked in real estate and owned other businesses. He served a term as Spokane mayor, starting in 1899. James Comstock died in 1918.